With the NBA season just around the corner, it seems that it is time to make preseason predictions about everything NBA related. However, today we will focus on an honor that in my opinion should be one of the first categories you look at when discussing a players Hall of Fame credentials. For now, we will take an extensive look at the All-NBA first team. Which modern NBA superstars have what it takes to earn this honor?
Guard: Russell Westbrook
With the new additions of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, Russell Westbrook is set to have the most productive season of his career. Although Westbrook is coming off an MVP season that saw him average a triple-double, his fourth quarter stats are horrendous. This was due to the fact that Westbrook had to exert all his energy in the first three quarters to keep his team in the game. Come the fourth, there was simply nothing left in the tank.
This was put on display in last seasons Western Conference first-round series against the Houston Rockets. In the fourth quarter of game 2, Westbrook shot 4-18 and simply looked defeated on the court. However, with both George and Anthony now there, Westbrook will have some of the weight taken off of him in the first three quarters, leaving him a surplus of energy to produce late in the game.
Another reason Westbrook will have a more productive season is that he knows he has teammates he can trust offensively. Last season it felt like the entire Thunder organization was just trying to show Kevin Durant that they didn’t need him by letting Westbrook run wild. It seemed that winning took a back seat, while proving KD wrong was at the front of everyone’s mind.
However, all of that should change in the upcoming season as the Thunder will sport a competitive lineup that can seriously compete in the Western Conference. All of these reasons will lead to the rise of an efficient Westbrook, a smart, energetic player who only cares about winning. Welcome to the new era of Russell Westbrook!
Guard: Chris Paul
Although many might have thought that this position would once again belong to James Harden, I believe it is Chris Paul that will really be reinvigorated by the change of scenery. After spending the last six seasons of his career in Los Angeles with little playoff success, Paul must be ecstatic that he can use all of the tools in the world with this Houston team.
Containing the reigning sixth man of the year in Eric Gordon, along with Ryan Anderson and the MVP runner-up in James Harden, Chris Paul has the chance of averaging upwards of 12 assists per game. Last season, Paul averaged 9.2 assists per game, along with 18.1 points on 47.6% shooting from the field. Although efficient, they were by no means first team honor worthy. However, everyone could tell that the Clippers team we saw last year was dysfunctional and simply did not like playing together.
So on a different team with more talent, Paul will be playing with a whole other level of determination to prove himself as a winner. Although Chris has had great individual success, the fact of the matter is, his teams have been very lackluster in the postseason. However, 12 assists per game are not enough to make the All-NBA first team. Paul will also need to average upwards of 15 points per game. My final predictions for Paul’s stats are 16.3 points per game, 12.1 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and 48.5% field goal percentage.
Forward: LeBron James
This prediction is nearly as easy as predicting the sun will rise tomorrow morning. James has earned this honor 11 different times, which includes a 10 season (and running) streak. Arguably still the best player in the world, barring any serious injury early in the season, there is nothing that could stop James from appearing on the All-NBA first team next season.
Last season, James averaged 26.4 points per game, 8.7 assists, and 8.6 rebounds while playing the most minutes out of any other player. However, those stats were with Kyrie Irving by his side rather than Isaiah Thomas, who is a more prominent scorer and could take some shots away from James. Although no one wants to admit it, James is 32 years old, and although he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down yet, you can’t help but wonder if competing in eight straight NBA Finals could start affecting his body.
Murmurings of James not being happy with the ownership and front office in Cleveland have also surfaced. If it continues, James could just start going through the motions rather than actually playing with some emotion. At the end of the day, it is still LeBron James. A freak of human nature, James will always be considered one of the best in the league until retirement. My final stat predictions for James 2017-18 season are 27.0 points per game, 9.4 assists per game, and 8.2 rebounds on 52.6% shooting from the field.
Forward: Kevin Durant
Although Durant was injured for a good chunk of last season, if you look past that stretch, his numbers are easily first team worthy. Durant averaged 25.1 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and shot 53.7% from the field. KD was also the best player on the league’s eventual champions. However, as much as voters want to deny it, the narrative does play a role in their decisions, and Kevin Durant had the worst narrative in the league.
Leaving a competitive Oklahoma City Thunder team behind, abandoning his “brother” in Russell Westbrook, all to join a team that had just achieved the best regular season record of all time. The most popular trend in the NBA realm was to hate Kevin Durant. Although, I never quite got that. He was a man with a job, and after giving his all to that organization for nine years, he chose to switch companies. What’s the matter with that?
Anyways, if Kevin hadn’t been the most hated figure in basketball, there is no doubt in my mind he would have earned this honor last season. But next year will be different. With the trend of hating on Durant dying down, people will be forced to look solely at his play on the court, which has been top three in the league for quite some time. Heading into next season, I predict Kevin Durant will average numbers close to 26.3 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game, and 1.8 blocks per game on 51.8% shooting from the field.
Center: Karl Anthony-Towns
Karl Anthony-Towns had the most underrated performance out of any NBA star last season. After averaging 25.1 points per game, 12.3 rebounds, and shooting 54.2% from the field, Towns still did not earn his first All-Star appearance, and made no All-NBA teams due to the lack of the Timberwolves success.
However, it was obvious to everyone that Towns was the best center in the league talent wise and will be a future NBA MVP. Many believe that unlike the All-Star voting, winning should be a key factor in the voting, and they’re right! Then again, Anthony Davis was the center for the All-NBA First Team while starring on a team that ended well outside of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Although winning should be a factor in the voting, when you have a player that is clearly ahead of the pack, you have to respect it and put them at the top of their position. Lack of winning should not be a problem next season as the addition of Jimmy Butler and growth of Wiggins and Towns will surely add at least 10 more wins to the Wolves season. With all of that said, there is no doubt in my mind that Karl Anthony-Towns will average nearly 23.7 points per game, 12.6 rebounds, and shoot nearly 53% from the field on his way to his first career All-NBA appearance.